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Angels Bag Pujols and Wilson

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The Angels finally did it. They signed the big free agent: Albert Pujols. 10 years. $250 million. No-trade clause. Done.

“It's a very exciting day for the Angels community, for Southern California as a whole,” Angels’ General Manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters in a press conference at the MLB Winter Meetings held in Dallas, TX.

It surely is exciting especially since it looks like not winning the AL West has pissed off Angels’ owner Arte Moreno.

The Angels had been more notable in recent years on whiffing on the free agent market. Mark Teixeira spurned them for the New York Yankees. Carl Crawford opted for the microscope of Boston. But armed with a new general manager Jerry Dipoto, the Angels came out of nowhere in the last two days to outbid the St. Louis Cardinals and bag the soon-to-be 32-year old.

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Oh. And the Angels also signed Texas Rangers starting pitcher C.J. Wilson for five years, $77.5 million.

In one fell swoop, the Angels went from being a good team to one of the World Series favorites. There is no denying that the three-time MVP and nine-time All Star instantly boosts the Angels’ cache with his lifetime batting average of .328, 445 home runs and on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.037. Although his batting average of .299 in 2011 could be seen as a decline, Dipoto disagreed.

“I see Albert Pujols as the most consistent offensive player of his generation,” Dipoto said in a press conference at the winter meetings in Dallas, TX. “And if a decline still places you in the top five MVPs in the League, and we understand that players will go through peaks and valleys of sort, Albert has spent many years operating at the peaks. And if we want to call a decline going from superhuman to just great, I don't think we've seen the last great days of Albert Pujols, obviously, or we wouldn't be sitting here today.”

Sure the Angels are overpaying Pujols. Sure Pujols will be relegated to designated hitting in the later years of this contract as he approaches 40’s. Sure an average of $25 million per year to a declining player is probably not prudent.

If it gets the Angels a ring or two, why the hell do you not go for it?

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The last time the Angels came up big in the free agent market was when they nabbed Vladimir Guerrero back in 2004. Remember that was also when the Dodgers’ ownership was in flummox. Perhaps it is mere coincidence, but it does seem the Angels seem to do well when the Dodgers are in sheer chaos - especially when the best the Dodgers can do aside from locking down Matt Kemp long term is to sign Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston, Jr., Matt Treanor, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.

But time for some perspective Angels’ fans.

While listening to Roger Lodge hosting his morning show on the Angels’ radio flagship station AM 830 KLAA, he was calling it a historic moment in Angel history. He’s right, it probably ranks up there below Gene Autry being awarded the team in 1960 and the team winning their first World Series in 2002. It is the third largest contract in MLB history behind Alex Rodriguez’s $275 million in 2007 with the Yankees and his $252 million in 2001 with the Texas Rangers.

But don’t be celebrating the World Series yet. Take a hard look at the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Phillies. Just because Moreno went all in doesn’t guarantee the ring. Remember after the Angels got Guerrero they played in zero World Series games. (Although to be fair they did win four division titles and made it to the ALCS twice.)

The Angels do have some questions to address, namely what happens to Mark Trumbo who came in second in the AL Rookie of the Year vote? What happens with Vernon Wells? Is Chris Ianetta the answer for the offensive ineptitude from their catchers? How will they shore up the back end of their bullpen besides signing LaTroy Hawkins?

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Those are some significant questions to address, and the signing of Pujols and Wilson (and a payroll north of $160 million for 2012) will not be able to cover up all of the holes.